You are a relational being because God created you in His image (Genesis 1:26). God, who has always belonged to a community—a Trinitarian community, made you in such a way that you want to belong to a community (Genesis 2:18).
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Listen to Rick preaching this content at a conference in Wyoming
In This Series:
- The Most Perfect Relationship You Will Ever Have
- Leading Your Wife In Intimate Conversations
- How to Build and Enjoy Dynamic Community Life
It is impossible for the Lord to create anything that is not affected by Him: His fingerprints are all over His work. You see this idea in Romans 1:20 where Paul talked about how the non-regenerate person could learn about God through His creation. You can see God’s invisible attributes clearly through the world He created.
Made in the image of God means, in part, that you have similarities to God (James 3:9). One of the most intrinsic qualities He put into you is a desire to commune with others—those who are like you. To want to relate to other people is God-like; it is imaging the Trinity.
A reason the Lord created Eve was so that Adam could more adequately image his Creator. Without an object to receive his love, Adam would not be able to know, experience, or emulate God entirely.
It’s like talking about ice cream versus tasting ice cream. Adam could know about love, but he could not fully experience love until he tasted it (Psalm 34:8), until he could do what God was doing: loving another person (1 John 4:8).
As they say, “You cannot understand a person until you walk a mile in their shoes.” Adam could not “walk a mile in the Lord’s shoes” because he had no person like him to walk in similar paths. Without Eve, Adam’s life would have a dead-end street feel to it. Your life would be the same if you were not communing within a community. One of the most extreme expressions of this is solitary confinement.
The Lord saw this problem and said it was not good for Adam to be alone (Genesis 2:18), so He gave Adam a friend. For the first time in the history of the human race, Adam could live out a fuller reflection of his Creator by having an object for his affection.
Then you turn the page.
Along Came Sin
In Genesis chapter three you are introduced to sin through a walking, talking, stalking serpent. You know the story. Adam and Eve chose to sin, and from that point forward every person born from them was selfish (Romans 5:12).
The love Adam was supposed to give to Eve turned onto himself. Eve reciprocated with a similar kind of self-centered love. Rather than seeing the other person as an opportunity to image God through others-centered loving, our first two parents became self-serving.
Adam and Eve replaced “esteeming others more than yourself” (Philippians 2:3–4) with esteeming themselves more than others, or what we call self-esteem today. Selfishness is how sin transforms you. The Father, knowing that selfish people could never save selfish people, sent His others-centered Son to reverse the curse (Ephesians 2:1–10).
Now, the gospel gives you an opportunity for a second birth (John 3:7), so you can be reequipped, re-envisioned, and rerouted for how things are supposed to be. Even though the God-centered community was interrupted by the fall, the possibility of enjoying an others-centered community is available to anyone who wants it.
The purest iteration of this kind of community is the Father, Son, and Spirit. They are perfect koinonia. There is nothing more refined, more exquisite, and more profound than Father, Son, and Spirit. If you want to enjoy the most perfect human relationship possible, the Trinity has to be part of that relationship.
Any human relationship without God is less than what it could be or should be.
That is why non-Christians cannot have true koinonia. The Spirit will not inhabit the natural person (1 Corinthians 2:14). Paul hinted at this in Philippians 2:1 when he talked about participation in the Spirit.
The word participation is the word koinonia or the word community. To have a real community with another human being, both persons must enter into a mutual, reciprocating, and effective participation (fellowship) in the Spirit.
A husband and wife can relate to each other well and have many wonderful experiences together, but there will always be something missing in their relationship if they are not sharing their transparent and transcendent relationship with God with each other.
If they are not participating together with the Spirit of God, even if they have enjoyed every possible human experience, they will never fully experience the koinonia the Lord generously provides to any two (or more) people who want to participate with Him in that kind of community.
Biblical fellowship—participation in the Spirit or community—means the sharing with another individual your deepest and richest relationship, which is your relationship with God.
Think about the most powerful and profound relationship you can have; it is with God, of course. There is no other relationship better than what you have with the Lord. How could anything be better than the King of the universe, the Person who created you and sustains you, communing with you?
That means if you want to have the most robust, profound, off-the-charts, relationship with another human being, your call to action is to share with that person your experience with sovereign Creator, King—the Lord God Almighty. If you do, you will be sharing with another individual your greatest treasure (Matthew 6:21).
To let another person in on your greatest treasure is the most vulnerable, intimate, profound, rich, transcending, honest, transparent, and complimenting thing you could do for a relationship.
The following infographic helps to unpack what it means to have biblical fellowship with another person. Of course, real community applies to any friendship, e.g., if your small group could do this, you would belong to one of the richest groups in the world.
The person in the blue could be anyone. I am going to call him Rick. The person in the pink we will call Lucia. You can see that Rick and Lucia have an individualized, independent, and personal relationship with God.
Rick and Lucia are enjoying the deepest kind of relationship a person could ever enjoy. They both are participating in the Spirit; the Lord has inhabited them. They are empowered, illuminated, encouraged, and motivated by God, as well as convicted and made to feel guilty when they sin against God (Proverbs 3:12; Hebrews 12:6).
Rick and Lucia have a full relationship with the Lord, which includes all their good and bad days. There are things they are doing well in their walk with God (Ephesians 4:1), and there are things they have not fully matured into yet (Hebrews 5:12–14).
- On the positive side of things: Rick and Lucia are appropriating the grace of God in their lives, and they are enjoying biblical success with God and each other (Joshua 1:8).
- On the downside of things: Rick and Lucia are not appropriating the grace of God in all ways in their lives, and the Spirit of God is grieved or quenched at times (Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19).
Rick and Lucia are representative of all Christians. You could say they have a light and a dark side (1 John 1:7–10) regarding their walk with the Lord. The right and wrong of their whole selves represent the totality of how they do community (koinonia) with the Lord.
Being married and being a Christian does not automatically mean you will connect and relate to your spouse at the deepest part of your personal experience, which is your intimate knowledge of and experience with God. You could go to church for years and never enjoy biblical fellowship with your spouse or any other person. Though you have to be a Christian to experience this kind of community, being a Christian does not automatically mean you have it.
That sort of community requires a deeper amount of trust to engage another person in the deepest part of the soul. And you would not give your most cherished treasure to someone whom you do not trust. If the person you are sharing your deepest treasure with cannot steward the high honor of receiving your best treasure, you must disqualify them from entering into that experience with you.
As it relates to your relationship with the Lord, you may share part of your experience with Him with your spouse. You may let your spouse know some of the things you are learning or some of the ways you think about God and life.
But if your spouse has a proven record of not being able to steward your deepest secrets, the more profound things will continue to be between you and the Lord. There is a level of koinonia you will not go to with your spouse or with any other friend if they are not mature enough to handle the full truth about you (John 16:12).
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)
There are many things you and I appreciate about the Lord, but probably nothing ranks higher than the fact that He does not condemn us. There is no more condemnation toward those who have been saved by our Redeemer.
All of our past, present, and future sins are under the blood of Christ, blotted out forever, and never held against us in any divine court of law. We have been justified, set free, declared not guilty, and as long as Christ lives, we will live in that freedom (Galatians 5:1). That truth has set us free (John 8:36).
It sets us free to enter into His courts (Psalm 100:4), ready to share all of the thoughts and intentions of our hearts with Him, even though He already knows them (Hebrews 4:12–13). We do this because we are not afraid of Him. We are aware He is for us (Romans 8:31–39). We can be naked before God and not ashamed (Genesis 2:25).
What I am describing is the kind of relationship every married couple should be pursuing with each other. That sort of koinonia will not happen in a year or a decade but in a lifetime of pressing into God and each other. Sharing the farthest depths of our experience with God should be the goal for every couple.
One Thing Thou Lackest
It is typical when people come to me for counseling to talk about how they are having communication problems. I do not think many (if any of them) understand all the basic contours of that word. Communication comes from the Greek word koinonia. I believe that if they fully understood the depth of their communication problems, they would be more discouraged.
What they are typically talking about and asking for is talk tips, some practical advice to help them communicate well with each other. I understand. They are trying to get along with each other, but they do not know how they are a million miles from what the Bible talks about when it talks about getting along with someone.
Christ did not come just to help us to get along with each other. He came to transform us into Himself (1 John 3:8). In heaven, there will be perfect koinonia because there will be no sin. On earth, we have to fight for this kind of communication in relationships. There is a high price to pay to be able to enjoy “communal participation” in the Spirit.
The biggest hindrance to koinonia is that we do not trust each other to handle the real truth about our lives. So, what do we do? We do not go there with them. I remember in the early part of our marriage how Lucia would share certain things with her friends—things she had not shared with me.
I would become angry each time she did this. It was an insult. It was an affront. I would reason, “Why does she share her more intimate and personal thoughts with other people, but not with me?”
My first response was to become angry with her. It took a long time for me to realize how my jerk-ness was intimidating her from being intimate with me. It did not occur to me that the reason she would not share with me was that I was not mature enough to handle her truth.
She knew she could share her deeper struggles with others, but she could not share those things with me because I was not trustworthy. Because of how I had responded to her in the past, she felt it would be wiser and safer not to let me into the deeper places of her heart.
- It takes a lot of courage for a person to share their struggles with someone else.
- It takes a lot of others-loving maturities to steward those deeper matters of the heart.
Call to Action
- Are you currently experiencing real community with your closest friend? If you are married, that friend should be your spouse.
- If you are not, what is hindering you? Key verse: Matthew 7:3–5. (Make this question about you, not about the other person.)
- What are three practical things you can do to begin to have a deeper participation with your friend?
Also published on Medium.